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Rania Hassan ’19 is Helping Shape NC’s Environmental Policies

Rania Hassan graduated from the NC State College of Natural Resources in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences and a concentration in environmental policy. She now works as a policy assistant in the North Carolina Governor’s Office.

During her time at NC State, Hassan interned for an organization called Don’t Waste Durham, which focuses on reducing plastic pollution in Durham, NC. During this internship, she had the opportunity to see the initial stages of the organization’s “GreenToGo” program. The program provides a reusable takeout container at restaurants to reduce waste.

“Members of the program can check out a container at participating restaurants in Durham and then bring back to a drop off bin where they are washed and redistributed,” Hassan explained. “They have since expanded and have had and continue to have a great impact on the local community.”

We recently spoke with Hassan to learn more about her passion for the environment and how the College of Natural Resources prepared her for career success. Check out the Q&A below.

What is a typical day in your job like?

One of the things I really like about my job is that it’s pretty different from day to day. I’m never really working on the same thing. But my day generally includes things like attending meetings, writing policy briefs, attending events, and completing administrative tasks such as scheduling. As a policy assistant, I work with all of our policy advisors on various topics such as education, workforce, health and human services, climate, public safety and more.

I also work with our climate and clean energy team where I get to help staff the Governor’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council and help with grant writing to capture federal funds for environmental and climate projects in the state.

What inspired you to study environmental science?

I have always felt like I had a connection to the environment. I loved to play outside as a kid and my mom really fostered a sense of conservation, though she didn’t know it at the time. My mom always talked to me about not wasting food because it was haram (prohibited in Islam) and to not pick flowers or they would die and that was the foundation of my understanding of conservation and sustainability. I loved my environmental science classes in high school, which really pushed me into the field. That connection with nature has only grown since then.

How did the College of Natural Resources prepare you for your current position?

I definitely think that the college gave me the skills I would need to do well in my position. My policy classes really helped develop my writing skills, which are an essential skill set in policy work. I think college is when you really have to develop time management and organizational skills, which have really helped me in my current role.

What impact are you making through your position?

No role in state government is too small and all policy happens from the work of a team working together. I have gotten to be a part of supporting different policies in North Carolina, such as Executive Order 246 expanding on environmental justice. I co-organized the statewide Governor’s School Supply Drive that provides much-needed supplies to schools all across the state, written proclamations and more.

I also think that I’ve had an impact increasing awareness to the Muslim community in the state. The Muslim community usually feels forgotten or alienated by government, and I’ve been able to engage the Governor and our team with different projects and events that support the Muslim community, such as volunteering for DEAH Day, attending the film screening of “36 seconds: Portrait of a Hate Crime,” writing proclamations for Ramadan, DEAH Day and Our Three Winners Day, all of which were first-time proclamations, and organizing a meeting with Palestinian and Muslim constituents to discuss the ongoing genocide in Gaza. I hope that more Muslims engage and choose to work in government.

What advice do you have for current College of Natural Resources students?

One thing I think I didn’t do enough of in college was make connections. I have been able to meet so many interesting people through my work, and I wish I had taken the time to do that same level of connection with my professors and others when I was in college. Post-college is really an interesting time because you’re essentially on your own for the first time. There’s no known next step, and I think the people you meet along the way are the ones who help you navigate that.